Morning

At four in the morning the sky is already lightening here in southeast Queensland. Daylight savings is not observed here. Today, sunrise was at four forty five. By five, the flashing bars on the solar controller announce that the panels are already receiving enough light to charge the battery.

The dawn chorus of about seven species of bird is already subsiding as the dawn chorus of coughing old men begins, followed very soon by the shuffling of slippers, the slapping of flip-flops and the tapping of walking sticks as those of the elderly residents in the camp who do not have facilities in our caravans begin our morning peregrinations to the ablution block. The dawn chorus of morning greetings begins.

The morning coffee has already kicked in, but the analgesics have not yet reached full effect. This first walk of the morning is the one I dislike most. I step carefully over the speed bump across the road outside the cabin where Gaz lives. I almost tripped on it once, because I don’t always lift my feet high enough. That is becoming less of a problem since I started pedalling.

On his veranda rail is a sign that says “Office of Der Kommandant, Stalag 13”. On the wall of his cabin is a newly arrived sign reading “ No Money, No Fags, No Grog. Go Home”. On the back of the mobility scooter parked in front is the sign “FARTY”. Gaz is probably the most cheerful resident in the park, and possibly the one with the least reason to be cheerful. I remind myself of this every time I pass his home, and smile.

We were discussing knees a while back. They are a popular subject here, like the weather, the high temperatures, and the irascible park manager.

“I got new knees” Gaz told me. “Didn’t do me any good at all”. Then cheerfully adds “The vets association are giving me a new scooter next year. I’ll give you this one”.

In the ablution block the cistern over the men’s urinal is filling and flushing every forty five seconds. Wasting water. I can see it has a new stainless steel braided hose fitted. Someone had made a repair recently. It used to flush manually by pulling a string to depress the lever. Now an automatic flusher must have been fitted, probably because most of the old codgers who use the urinal don’t bother to flush.

The handle of the stop cock had been removed, so I could not adjust it. I made a mental note to call the office later, and tell them about it.

And that is my entire plan for the day. I still can’t swim for a few more days. Even now at five o’clock the temperature is already twenty five degrees. I doubt I’ll be riding in the sun today. I shall have to ride in the evening, if it cools down. Yesterday it didn’t. I sat in front of a fan all day and binge watched season eight of Game of Thrones.

Today will be a book day. I think it’s time to revisit Earthsea. No. It’s Saturday. Time to change the sheets and do the laundry. Then I’ll be a free man for the remainder of the day.

At least I can start showering again.

Melanoma Blues

A massive chunk excised from my left arm today. Eleven stitches to close the wound. My new personal best. Hopefully we got the whole thing. The bad news is there is another one to do tomorrow. Another positive biopsy result. The good doctor had to shuffle some appointments for me. I appreciate his sense of urgency.

I thought, having made it to 67, I was probably immune to cancer and it would be something else that took me out. Maybe it will be still, but the odds are changing. One thing I have already decided. After looking after my friend Jeff for his last couple of months, I determined then and there I would not be going quietly and meekly if it happened to me. The man suffered. I suffered with him. There shall have to be a plan B. B prepared.

I got the melanomas
Melanomas in my skin
I got melanomas, yeah
Melanomas in my skin
So I went to the doctor
He started slicing straight in.

Said we gotta cut them out man
Before they get too strong
Said we gotta cut ‘em, yeah,
Before they get too strong
‘Cos iffen we don’t cut ‘em
Man you ain’t got long.’ *

I got the melanoma blues,
From knocking around in Sunshine City
Where the ozone layer’s thinner
And the UV rays are stronger in the air
I had SPF to use – but I didn’t use it, that’s a pity
And those bloody melanomas
Are popping up everywhere.

* Poetic licence. He’s Persian, and does not talk like that.

If you actually listen to the Blues, you’ll know a lot of the songs are considerably worse than this one.

I hold my dent up to the light.

Lessons.

Today was a day in which I learned, or was reminded of, several important things. It was intended to be a quiet day sorting out the van and disposing of things that are no longer needful, or that do not bring me joy. I am decluttering with a ruthlessness that would make David finally proud of me.

Having swum ninety minutes every day this week I thought I’d take a break, but then, in a fit of energy, and procrastination, I rationalised that I may not be able to swim for a while after the surgery tomorrow. So I should definitely go today. The truth is, I am becoming a swim junkie. I need my fix of weightless, fluid, pain-free motion with good music, the cool silky feel of water flowing over my skin.

Also I had spotted in the Target catalogue, a cheap, small microwave oven that looked as if it might fit into the space created for one in the caravan, a space currently filled with sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration. I decided I need a microwave, now that I am on mains power semi permanently.

I measured the space and recorded the dimensions on my phone. Then went for a swim. I forgot my walking stick. Emerging from the pool and feeling the return of gravity, I regretted my decision not to go back for it. I decided I need three. One always in the car, one in the bike trailer, and one at home. It is getting hard to do without it.

After my swim, I showered, changed and headed for Target. I stopped into the bargain shop first to pick up an extra walking stick.

In Target I found the oven I was interested in, pulled out my tape measure, and checked the dimensions of the front of the oven. It would fit. I picked up a boxed oven from the shelf below the display and headed for the checkout. By the time I got there, I knew I had made a serious mistake. The shooting pains in my legs and the grinding sounds from my knees told me both they and my back were buggered from this weightlifting exercise. It was only a small oven!

I left it by the checkout and went in search of a trolley. I had not limped far at all before I needed a rest. I leaned on my stick in the forward leaning pose that seems to give me relief. A young woman, who had been at the checkout behind me, came up to me, pointed at a bench and told me to sit there while she found me a trolley. She then headed down to Woolworths at the other end of the mall, returning with a trolley.

What a sweetheart. Her name is Tara. I felt so old. Especially when she patted me on the shoulder and told me that like me, her grandma was always trying to do more than she was now capable of. Hey, I’m father material, not grandad. But of course, I was her age when my grandad was my age.

Such people are the treasures of humanity as much as any great Nobel laureate.

Once I had a trolley to lean on, I was fine. I collected the oven and transferred it to the cruiser. Back at the caravan I unboxed it and carefully, if painfully, carried it inside. Of course it did not fit into the space available. Only the face had the right dimensions, and even then, only just. A short existential crisis until I realised I could remove the top of the cupboard, insert the oven and put the top back. A quick gathering of tools and the step-stool I call the standy on-thing.

First, I put insect screen over the ventilation hole through the wall of the caravan. That should keep out the ants and insects that might otherwise colonise the back of the oven.

It did fit though the cupboard top does not quite go back as snugly as before. I then reheated some cold coffee in a mug. No more reheating in a saucepan on the gas stove and forgetting it.

But I now need to find somewhere to put all the sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration.

I wondered at the marvellous technology before me that cost only $68. I remembered my first microwave and how expensive it was. This thing cost little more than a packet of 40 cigarettes, or an hour of my wages, back when I was earning them.

That made me think of all the man hours and material that went into manufacturing it. If the retail price is so low, how much do those who do the real work get? Then I felt guilty. This is why the world is in crisis.

But coffee. And reheated chicken, turkey and chorizo in mushroom sauce.

Noddy Has A Very Busy Day and Makes a Decision.

Senior moment today. Fully aware that I had an appointment with the GP in Woodford at 11:15 I hurried off for my morning swim at 07:30. I was in the water well before 8 and swimming to the accompaniment of Mozart, Beethoven, Dire Straits, Ultravox, Pink Floyd, Clannad, Steeleye Span et al.

Ninety minutes passed quickly and just as I planned, I emerged from the pool at 09:30 for a shower before driving the 50 minute commute to Woodford. I like to always allow a little extra time. It is a habit you learn in the outback, where a four hour drive can sometimes end up taking a couple of days.

Except without even thinking about it, I had ridden the bike to the pool. Now I had to ride back to base camp to get the cruiser.

Today I found out how the bike performs on full assist. Really well.

I arrived in Woodford, without breaking the law, in plenty of time for my appointment, which was all about the latest blood and pee test results which are encouraging. I took the opportunity to raise the subject of my knees, now that the weight was coming down. Mehdi prodded and pushed, and wrote a referral for x-rays.

Three weeks ago he had checked me all over for melanomas. All clear. Today as I was about to leave, he pounced on a new spot on my forearm and examined it with his super magnifier. Not good. Worried frown. He took a photo with an attachment on his iPhone and showed me what it was about the spot that concerned him. He told me to make an appointment ASAP to have it excised. I go back on Monday.

A couple of hours later I was being x-rayed by a cheerful and chatty young radiographer at Caboolture Hospital. After a few poses and buzzing sounds, she pronounced that the images had come out perfectly,

Then, looking at the images, she said sympathetically, “I bet they hurt”.

I told her they do. Then added “You know, I used to go out with a radiographer”.

“Did you really?” She said.

“Yes, but she saw right through me from the start”.

“How long have you been sitting on that one?” She said, laughing.

“I composed it just then, for you”.

Next stop the Department of Transport and Main Roads Customer Service Centre Caboolture. I’ve been here in Queensland over a year now, and several times at road checks when queried about my WA drivers licence and how long have I been in Queensland, I’ve told the police I am passing through, hanging around only for medical reasons. I have already stayed over the legal time for using an out of state licence. The time has come to acknowledge I am not up to the Grey Nomad life in my current state. I won’t be moving on soon. Maybe I shall in the future, but for now, I’m probably in the best place I can be. Where I am. A very Zen thought.

The nice lady at the Customer Service Centre gave me a form for my doctor to sign, and checked the forms of ID I carry. She pronounced them satisfactory. All can be sorted once I return with the signed form.

So out of practical necessity I’ve made a decision. I’m staying here. I shall join a bowls club or some such for a social life, cheap meals and meat pack raffles, and see about a dinghy to fish from.

Barbara

I am in the waiting room of the Kidney clinic in Northlakes. I am early for my appointment and the only person in the room except for one other older man. A doctor came in and searched the room before calling “Barbara?” For some strange reason she then looked straight at me. I felt I had to respond.

I answered “I could be a Barbara if you need one. I am flexible. But wait, maybe what she has is worse than what I have. So no, not me.”

She laughed of course, but I swear she had a worried look.

It looks like Barbara is not going to show up. I hope she is ok.

Would you let this man be your Barbara?

Getting Better is Not as Easy as You May Think

The first step towards getting well is admitting you have a problem. Since I recognised my condition, I have striven to overcome it with alcohol, drugs, and mindless activity. But I must always be alert, because the golden retriever of cheerfulness can sneak up on one at any time and inevitably leads to serious disruptions of normality.

It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder…..

https://jme.bmj.com/content/medethics/18/2/94.full.pdf